John Hafner’s Tips for Great iPhone Hunting Photos

The iPhone Has Changed How We Approach Photography

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Venison World with CrossProcess

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1 | Venison World with CrossProcess

Venison World in Eden, Texas, is a pretty cool store. It sells all sorts of venison, jerky, sausage, plus axis deer hides and other stuff that appeals to hunters. Its storefront also made for a good photo. Its "Best Jerky in the World" claim might just be deserving, and the "Welcome Hunters" banner caught my eye. I used an iPhone app called CrossProcess to give this pic a slight vintage feel. CrossProcess is a cheap, easy-to-use app that quickly transforms any snapshot into a "vintage" image. And with email and Facebook options, you can share your favorite pics as quickly as you take them. 

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Honoring the Buck

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2 | Honoring the Buck

I like shooting pics of my deer where they fall. My axis buck piled up in the middle of a pretty thick tangle of branches and dead falls, and I think the spot makes a good backdrop. Once again, I used the CrossProcess app to enhance the contrast and give the pic a vintage look. I shot from a low angle and put my iPhone right beside his antlers.This pic is meant to honor the buck and the experience. To me, it does just that. 

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Memory of the Kill

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3 | Memory of the Kill

This pic might be a bit gross for some, but I like it. It's not meant to honor the kill. I made a good shot on my buck, and this pic preserves that memory for me. I used a cool app called Hipstamatic to give the photo a cool color shift, a film-like border and a neat square format. One of the best features of Hipstamatic, like CrossProcess, is that it saves your image as a high-resolution file -- perfect if you want to print it.

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iPhone Still Life

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4 | iPhone Still Life

Here's a simple, but effective still life shot of my buck and rifle. No fancy apps were used to edit this, and I'm OK with that. The empty shell ring tells a story, and the rain drops on the scope and rifle stock add a nice detail. Nothing else is needed to make this pic one of my favorites from the hunt.

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Hunting Snacks

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5 | Hunting Snacks

My friends will attest that my appetite can be pretty ferocious. Boredom might be to blame, but as I was sitting in my stand waiting out the rain and hoping the deer would be on the move soon, I put down more than my share of snacks. A couple of candy wrappers, combined with the cool effects of an app called LomoLomo, made for another storytelling pic that captures a moment of my hunt.

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Quick Shot

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6 | Quick Shot

Here's another detail shot made possible by LomoLomo. I shot this pic only minutes after the candy wrapper shot. Just like the weatherman predicted, the clouds lifted, the sun peaked out and the deer began to move. As I was unwrapping a Snickers, I caught a glimpse of a nice buck heading my way. Less than a minute later, I was shooting this pic. And yeah, I finished the Snickers before leaving the blind to check out my buck.

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Making Memories

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7 | Making Memories

As I waited out the rain, I noticed how the nearby trees framed the sky above my blind. I think this is another example of how even a quick pic can make a nice addition to your hunting scrapbook. I used CrossProcess to give the sky a bit of warm color. 

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Experimenting with CameraBag

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8 | Experimenting with CameraBag

For this detail pic of my binoculars, I experimented with an app called CameraBag. Even though it saves your edited pics as low-resolution files, I still use CameraBag a lot. It's simple to use and offers several editing options, including the "Instant" option I used to create this pic. It mimics the look of a Polaroid film photo from the 1970s or ’80s. Other CameraBag choices include "1962," "1974," "Cinema" and "Magazine." With a couple quick flicks of your smartphone's screen, you can create pics with all sorts of cool effects. 

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Hipstamatic Take Two

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9 | Hipstamatic Take Two

Here's a different take on the bullet hole pic, also processed with the Hipstamatic app. Hipstamatic has several "film" and "lens" options, as well as borders and other effects. For this pic, I used a "film" called BlacKeys B+W. You can buy vintage film and lens packs for about a buck each, and each one will give your pics a distinct look. 

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Texas Theme

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10 | Texas Theme

I wanted to capture a couple of details that screamed "Texas." Nothing says Texas like a cactus pic. These nasty plants are everywhere, and even though they can slice you wide open, they make for pretty neat photo subjects. Rather than shoot this cactus from eye level and end up with a boring, mediocre shot, I opted for a low-angle perspective. I put my iPhone right up against the cactus, snapped a few pics, ran my favorites through CrossProcess, and ended up with a few keepers. This shot is my favorite from the series. I like the way CrossProcess darkened the scene, added a dark vignette to the corners, and punched the contrast a bit.  

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Sense of Place

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11 | Sense of Place

Here's another detail that gives a sense of place. The LomoLomo app took an otherwise boring subject and transformed it into a decent shot. I like the way the app added a slight antique feel by creating the sense of stained edges. 

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Unique Touches

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12 | Unique Touches

My friends Chad and Tausha, owners of the ranch I hunted, have gone to great lengths to decorate their cabin with unique touches inside and out. This sign is on the outside of their garage, and I thought it made for a nice pic. CrossProcess made it that much better. 

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Playing with Angles

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13 | Playing with Angles

Here's another cool sign on the "E Ranch." By shooting upward from a low angle and using Hipstamatic to give the shot a dark black-and-white look, I was able to create a pretty cool pic that has a sort of old West feel. 

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Custom Buck

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14 | Custom Buck

To create this shot of my buck, I used an app called Lo-Mob. With more than 40 vintage films to choose from – including 35mm slide mounts, like I used here, from medium format film to Polaroid formats and all kinds of other options – Lo-Mob definitely has a lot to offer. It takes some time to experiment with the different options and find the ones you like best, but it's worth it. The pics export as low-resolution files, so don't expect to print them. But if your goal is to impress your Facebook friends with your custom photo creations, Lo-Mob might be all you need. 

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Rare Additions

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15 | Rare Additions

I spend nearly all of my time on the other side of the camera, so shots like this are rare additions to my hunting scrapbook. Once again, I used Lo-Mob to transform an ordinary pic in to a memorable shot. Lo-Mob's "INSTAnt-X Tall" choice gives the pic a Polaroid-like look. The black-and-white tinting is a nice touch, I think.

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Editor's note: This was originally published in 2012.

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As a full-time freelance outdoor photographer, I rarely put down my camera. But every once in awhile I get to trade it for a rifle or shotgun and get to work. It can be difficult to pack photo and hunting gear on the same trip, so lately I've relied on my iPhone to capture all the memories and moments that stand out to me while I'm hunting. The quality of iPhone and other smartphone pics (and video) is impressive -- definitely good enough to publish in your favorite hunting magazines. Plus, they're lightweight, portable, user-friendly and offer all kinds of apps to give your pics a unique look. 

For this axis deer hunt, I traveled to San Angelo, Texas, to hunt with my friends Chad and Tausha Elliott. They own a ranch a few miles outside of town, and their generous offer to spend a few days chasing axis deer was one I quickly accepted. Even though I packed my cameras and lenses, I opted to shoot the entire hunt with my iPhone. Here are a few of my favorite pics from the hunt, and the story behind each shot.